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MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) — UnitedHealth chased a 35 percent profit hike in last year’s first quarter with a 31 percent jump in the first three months of 2018, as the nation’s largest health insurer added more than 2 million customers and improved its growing operations outside of insurance.
The company also boosted its forecast for 2018 after a surprisingly strong start to the year.
The insurer said Tuesday that it added customers for its Medicare Advantage and Medicaid businesses and stretched its reach into South America by buying a health care provider and insurer that operates in Chile, Columbia and Peru.
UnitedHealth also booked $1.7 billion in operating earnings, or a 29 percent gain, for its Optum business segment.
Health insurance is still the biggest revenue generator for UnitedHealth Group Inc., which covers nearly 49 million people. But it also has been focused on growing Optum, which provides pharmacy benefits management and technology services. It operates an expanding number of clinics and urgent care and surgery centers.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. earned $2.84 billion in the first quarter, up from $2.17 billion last year, while adjusted earnings per share totaled $3.04. Total revenue jumped 13 percent to $55.19 billion.
Analysts expected earnings of $2.92 per share on $54.86 billion, according to Zacks Investment Research.
The Minnetonka, Minnesota, company now forecasts 2018 earnings to range between $12.40 and $12.65 per share, up from a prediction it made in January for earnings of $12.30 to $12.60 per share. Analysts have been projecting earnings of $12.54 per share, according to FactSet.
Shares rose more than 3 percent before the opening bell.
Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on UNH at https://www.zacks.com/ap/UNH
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